Why sending your kid to a “traditional” summer camp is more important than ever

By Eric Spitznagel

The author’s son leaps into Lake Michigan

“Are you ready for the summer?
Are you ready for the good times?…”

Those unforgettable song lyrics, burned into my subconscious when I first saw the summer-camp movie Meatballs almost 40 years ago, go through my head on a constant loop when I visit my 10-year-old son Charlie at day camp. We’re from Chicago, but my wife and I enrolled him in a small summer camp in northern Michigan, just north of Traverse City. …

Is 2020 the wrong year to tell my son the terrible truth about Santa?

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

As a four-year-old boy, Michael Leviton had no interest in Santa Claus.

That was partly because he was Jewish. But it was also due to his parents’ belief in total and uncompromising honesty, Leviton writes in his memoir, “To Be Honest” (Abrams Press), out January 5.

Raising him in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s, they made sure he knew all the brutal details of life, such as the fallibility of his teachers, the inevitability of death, and the fact that Santa Claus has always been a cultural myth.

That didn’t stop some of his relatives from trying to make him…

Every lifetime has a U-shaped ‘happiness curve.’ At 50, I can tell you what that means.

The author, lower center, celebrates his 7th birthday with friends. (Photo courtesy of the author’s mother.)
The author, lower center, celebrates his 7th birthday with friends. (Photo courtesy of the author’s mother.)
The author, lower center, celebrates his 9th birthday with friends. Photo courtesy of the author’s mother.

I’m 50 years old, which means I’m roughly two-and-a-half years removed from the unhappiest point in my life.

That number isn’t arbitrary. It comes from new research by Dartmouth economist David Blanchflower. After examining data from 500,000 people in 132 countries, he’s pinpointed the exact age when the majority of people in developed parts of the world feel the most miserable: 47.2.

Every lifetime has a U-shaped “happiness curve,” he concludes in the study, which was published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The average bottom of that curve, where we’re at our most forlorn, is the same regardless…

Sarah Montana, photographed by Stephen Yang

The holidays can be emotionally taxing for many people, but especially so for Sarah Montana.

It’s been more than a decade since her brother and mother were murdered in her childhood home in Dale City, Va.

“I have all of my mom’s ornaments and decorations, and every year I have to unpack the trauma all over again,” she says.

It was on Dec. 19, 2008, just six days before Christmas, that her mother Jean, 39, and younger brother James, 19, were shot by a 17-year-old neighbor, Xavier Pinckney, who’d broken into their house looking for valuables to steal.

Montana, who…

There have been many famous babies throughout history: The Lindbergh Baby. The Gerber Baby. Baby Jessica. Rosemary’s Baby. But has there ever been a baby as universally loved and fawned over as Baby Yoda?

For all the joy that Baby Yoda brings us, he can also be confusing. And not because of the obvious questions, like whether Baby Yoda is the real Yoda. Obviously he’s not. The Mandalorian — the Disney+ original series that’s given us our favorite non-English-speaking Star Wars character since BB-8 — is set between Return of the Jedi (when the O.G. …

A remarkable thing happened during game two of the 2016 World Series.

Chicago Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber hit a RBI single in the third inning. That’s not the remarkable part. What made it remarkable was that I witnessed Schwarber make his hit in person, while sitting in the crowd at Cleveland’s Progressive Field, and I didn’t burst into tears like a wheezing man-baby.

This was not typical behavior for me. I’d been crying, or at least welling up, after even the most routine plays by the Cubs during that particular postseason. …

Like many people who grew up on the Leelanau Peninsula — sometimes called the “little finger” of the Michigan mitten — I didn’t realize until well into my mid-20s that Petoskey stones aren’t a precious metal.

A Petoskey stone is a fossilized coral that can only be found on the coast of northwestern Michigan. Its distinctive honeycomb pattern is one of the most aesthetically perfect designs ever created by nature, or so I was led to believe as a child.

What other explanation could there be for the excitement these stones gave our parents? When I found my first Petoskey…

‘Are the rich really different from the rest of us?’ I ask myself while wrestling with my billionaire younger brother at 3 a.m.

Photos courtesy of the author.

For most of the last decade, my brother Mark and his family lived in a house with a moat.

The house — a four-bedroom French villa in Bel Air previously owned by Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony — is pretty impressive even without the moat, but that unnecessary protective trench gives the house a certain surreal charm. It’s nice to know that when you visit your family for the holidays, you don’t have to worry about Spanish conquistadors.

When I tell people about my brother’s moat house, they usually ask, “Is he rich or something?” …

(Illustration by Toby Pennington)

It’s exhilarating to get an email from Forrest Fenn, the 89-year-old retired antique dealer from New Mexico who’s responsible for one of the biggest and most controversial treasure hunts of the 21st century.

He doesn’t do phone calls anymore — he’s been losing his hearing in old age, he says — and he’s long since stopped inviting strangers to his house. Too many loonies looking for answers. But he’ll gladly correspond by email. And if you’re lucky, you might get a missive where it seems like he let a crucial detail slip.

“Please don’t say I buried it,” he says…

Dandy poses on the Yankee Stadium field, likely for the last time, 1979. (Photo by Madison Ford, Midcoast Studio)

On a warm New York summer day at Yankee Stadium, July 22nd, 1979, the Yankees first and only mascot made his world debut.

His name was Dandy, although he wouldn’t officially get that moniker for another month. (Dandy was the winning entry in a “Name the Mascot” contest for fans. It may’ve been an allusion to “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” but no one is sure anymore.) He was seven foot tall, with a rotund physique, a spinning baseball hat, a pinstripe Yankees outfit, and a ginger walrus-style mustache

Inside the costume was Rick Ford, a 22-year-old Ithaca College grad from Greenwich…

Eric Spitznagel

I’ve written for Vanity Fair, The NYT Magazine, and Playboy, among many others. I’m the author of 10 books, including my most recent, “Old Records Never Die”

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store